No More ‘SoHa’?

State Sen. Brian Benjamin (far right) joins locals in saying “Harlem, not SoHa”. (Photo by Bill Moore via Amsterdam News)

Resistance in South Harlem to the rebranding of the neighborhood to “SoHa” by real estate companies appears to have paid off for now. According to reports, Keller Williams Realty said they will stop using the term to draw new residents to the gentrified neighborhood, write Stephon Johnson and Cyril Josh Barker for Amsterdam News.

The company’s local office had called themselves the “SoHa Team” but following protests from residents and public officials, that will no longer be the case. A representative stated: “With respect to the neighborhood and people of Harlem, they will change their team name at Keller Williams NYC.”

Residents, like Regina Black, take issue with people from outside coming in to the neighborhood and giving it a new name without any involvement from the locals themselves.

“If you are ashamed of your history that’s on you, but I and many others are proud of being Black regardless of our various skin tones,” she said. “I am proud to live in Harlem and will fight to maintain Harlem’s name and to make sure there’s affordable housing, rental, co-ops, condos and ones for those who are unable to afford what’s being built in our community now.

While Keller Williams has announced it will do away with the “SoHa” name, New York state Sen. Brian Benjamin wants to prevent such efforts from happening again. The recently elected official introduced legislation in early June that would establish a “formal process for renaming or re-designating a traditionally recognized neighborhood” in the city and penalize real estate brokers and agents “who advertise a property as part of, or located in, a designated neighborhood that is not traditionally recognized as such.”

Before being elected to the State Senate, Benjamin was chair of Community Board 10, which launched a campaign to stop the use of the name. Residents feared Keller Williams and others were erasing Harlem of its Black history.

Benjamin elaborated on the bill at a rally on June 30 where he and other officials joined residents and activists in speaking out against “SoHa.” Go to Amsterdam News for more from Benjamin, as well as former Congressman Charles Rangel, on the significance of saying you’re from Harlem and why “Harlem is not a name” – it’s much more than that.

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